Yesterday, I spoke about what we were doing as we baptised an Iranian brother at our church. The natural follow on question is, what now? Robert Strivens, in a recent blog post, puts it this way:
The Christian believer is justified by faith in Jesus Christ and not by obeying the law. This is wonderful news. Christians have peace with God and joy in hope as they believe. They live in a new realm, in which God is reconciled to them as their sins are atoned for by the blood of Christ. But how are we now to live?
Baptism is not the end, it is merely the beginning. It is not the point at which you are crowned as having made it, but the doorway to a life of ongoing discipleship in Christ. If baptism is the first step on the road to being a disciple, how to we keep being disciples after that?
In Ephesians 2:8-10, Paul says this: ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.’ Paul insists, once we have trusted in Christ – a matter entirely of God’s grace – we need to understand why God saved us at all. We are created in Christ Jesus for good works. God has prepared good works for us to do. We are not saved by them, but we are nevertheless saved by Christ to do them.
The flipside of that is how we view ourselves and our relationship to sin. Robert Strivens helpfully points out:
We are to think about ourselves in a particular way. We are to ‘consider’ ourselves as ‘dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (6:11). This is the first command in the entire letter and, in one sense, it is the most important. We are to think of ourselves in a new realm now. We are now in Christ, not in Adam. Our ‘old man’ – what we were in Adam before we came to faith in Christ – has been crucified and buried with Christ and we are now raised to new life with Christ in his resurrection. Sin no longer has the mastery of us. We belong to the one who has died that we might have life, not to the one who sinned and brought us all death. Perhaps best of all, we are now sons of God by adoption and the Spirit of God lives in us and witnesses within us to our amazing new status. So the question, ‘how then shall we live’ is answered, first of all, by how we think about ourselves.
So, as disciples of Jesus Christ, how we are to live means we think about ourselves in the new way – particular in our relationships with God and sin – and, instead, walk in the good works God has prepared for us to walk in. We now think of ourselves as united with Christ and set about doing the commands of Christ. As Robert helpfully puts it: ‘If we are to think of ourselves in a certain way, as dead to sin and alive to God, we are now to offer ourselves to God to serve him in righteousness (6:13). There is work to be done and a battle to be fought. We are not to give ourselves over to sin again – that would be to deny all that Christ has done and all that we are now in him. Rather, we are to live for God.’
In a little book a wrote a while ago now (available in not very many good bookshops, but nevertheless buyable here) I tackled this very question with more specifics. I was particularly concerned to look at what we are to do now we have trusted Christ and suggest 8 basic things every believer ought to do once they start following Jesus. But I think Robert Strivens helpfully sums it up in these two things: we are to think of ourselves in a new way and we are to act in a new way, walking in the good works God has prepared for us to walk in. We are no longer slaves to sin but servants of Christ.